Diet-Specific Workout A:
Cheat Day Workout

Donuts, ice cream, candy, popcorn, and pizza -- yum.

But, is there a time and place to eat these foods? A lot of people argue these foods are acceptable for a cheat day, because they boost your fat-burning hormones (like leptin and adiponectin).

While I won't argue this fact, I thought it important to
discuss the pro's and con's of eating these so-called 'foods':

  • Tempting all the time, especially if you grew up as a fat kid, like I did. It's hard to get rid of those urges, so it's nice to be able to schedule them and give in once in awhile.
  • For many of us, these foods -- and others like them -- are associated with fun times and celebration. Back in the day, feasting was about sharing a great meal with important people in our lives, so we can enjoy one another and ceremoniously celebrate abundance.
  • These high fat and high carb meals are very good at increasing levels of fat-burning hormones, so they work well as a fat-burning reset, while simultaneously satisfying a craving.
  • None of these "foods" are actually food. None of them are from nature, and none of them process in our bodies like food from nature.
  • They place immense stress on our digestive systems, and thereby shift our body's focus to healing and inflammation reduction for days to follow. Remember, your body is designed to cater to the highest priority health issue first, so is it really worth shifting focus to healing and repair just to satisfy a craving?
  • Food addiction and emotional eating are the real problems. By scheduling a cheat day that involves these foods as often as once or twice per week, we aren't giving ourselves a chance to break the negative psychological eating cycle that is the real problem causing weight gain, unhappiness, disease, or depression.

So, my suggestion is to weigh the pro's and con's for yourself. Personally, here's how I 'now' handle a cheat day:

  • I schedule one cheat day every 4 or 7 days; 4 days is when I'm working on getting lean in a short period of time and 7 days is when I'm on "maintenance" schedule.
  • I choose non-gluten based foods, and I avoid all 'fake foods' that are posing as 'real food', as to take care of my body and continually optimize my health.
  • Instead of pizza and ice cream, for example, I choose to eat more rice, avocado, fruits, and healthy snack bars. I also go out to eat on a cheat day, which automatically means I'm eating some unhealthy ingredients. For example, if I order wings, I try not to get them breaded, but I'm aware they aren't the healthiest choice I can make. If I order a burger, I get a gluten-free bun, or eliminate half/all the bread, and douse it in extra ketchup (that's a vice for me).
  • I make occasional exceptions to all of this, but I always ask myself the question: Am I craving this food because I'm feeling less than happy and satisfied, or is it simply that I haven't eaten it in awhile and I want it?
    • If it's because I'm feeling emotional, I leave it out of my diet for the day, because I don't want to be controlled by -- or addicted -- to anything.
    • If it's because I simply want to enjoy the taste, I make the exception and try not to make the same exception again for a period of 1-3 months.

For a lot of people, this is tough to imagine. It used to be for me, too, so don't feel you have to make overnight changes; I certainly didn't.

But, in the end, food is a fuel source, so it's best to view it that way. The goal of eating is to provide us with energy. The goal of a workout program is to make us healthy. Secondarily, we lose weight, get lean, and get muscular.

When you switch around your priorities to 'health optimization' first, and 'aesthetics' second, it gets a lot easier. Your body is your temple, so treat it accordingly.

I've seen too many people suffer from food addiction and unhealthy eating. Most people regret their decisions when it's too late... and they suffer from Diabetes, Alzheimer's, cancer, stroke, heart disease, inflammatory disease, anxiety, or depression. That sucks, and I don't want it for you.

Now, let's talk about how to adapt your workouts, based upon the decisions you make. After all, you are free to make your own decisions, and we are here to guide you to the best of our ability, independent of the choices you make:

The "guilty-pleasure" cheat day protocol (includes 'fake foods'):

  • Goals: Inflammation management, digestive assistance, and maximal caloric burn.
  • Method: Muscle balancing and HIIT-based weight or bodyweight training.
  • Length of a typical workout: 20-30 minutes
  • Important notes: Inflammation management is the most important thing here. With so much stress to your digestive system, it's important we focus on processing any inflammation in your gut first. Secondly, we need to get rid of the inflammation we'll be creating through HIIT-based weight or bodyweight training. Please monitor yourself to see how you feel, and continue with this protocol for 1 day (cheat day), or up to 72 hours (3 days in a row).
  • Sample workout:
    • Warm-up (7 minutes) - alternate the following exercises for 50 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest:
  • Main workout (25 minutes):
    • 10 minutes muscle balancing, alternating the following exercises with 50 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest:
  • 15 minutes of HIIT-based weight training, alternating the following exercises for 30 seconds of work and 30 seconds of rest (repeat the entire set 3x, for a total of 15 minutes of exercise):
  • Cool-down (7 minutes) - repeat warm-up exercises and instructions, but gradually reducing your pace instead of increasing it.

The "health optimization" cheat day protocol (includes higher fat, sugar, and carb intake, but from naturally occurring foods):

  • Goals: EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), maximal caloric burn, mobility
  • Method: short-burst workout(s) + flexibility, mobility, or tissue release
  • Length of a typical workout: 5-15 minutes
  • Important notes: Our goal is to accelerate your heart rate, skyrocket your metabolism, and force your body to use all the extra calories you're consuming -- today -- for days to come. Once we've accomplished this in the first 5 minutes of your 'main workout,' we'll shift priority to flexibility, mobility, and tissue release, as to help your body move more easily in future workouts and calm down your nervous system.
  • Sample workout:
    • Warm-up (7 minutes), alternate the following exercises for 50 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest:
  • Main workout (10 minutes)
    • Short-burst -- alternate the following exercises for 20 seconds of work and 40 seconds of rest:
  • Flexibility, mobility, or tissue release -- alternate the following exercises for 50 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest:
  • Cool-down (7 minutes) - repeat warm-up exercises and instructions, but gradually reducing your pace instead of increasing it.

As you can see, there is substantially less work to be done on a 'health optimization' cheat day than there is on a 'guilty pleasure' cheat day. Not only does your workout last for less time, but it is much more reasonable. This means you'll spend less time exercising, but also have a lower chance of injury.

Injuries tend to correlate to cheat days, or the very next day. When you over-eat, and it's fake-food instead of real-food, inflammation interferes with coordination, muscle control, and strength. This means, if your workout is before you eat, you'll be fine the day of your cheat day, but the days after are more dangerous; conversely, if you're eating before you exercise, you may have more inherent risk the day of your workout and for a couple days afterward.

When a cheat day workout is done properly, you'll experience EPOC, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Effectively, this is what allows you to burn calories for up to 48-72 hours after a workout. Thinking about it simply, when you push to your lactate threshold, or the last good rep, your body inflames, tiny muscle tears occur, and your body burns calories to repair itself.

If you add inflammation -- from eating -- to exercise-baseed inflammation, the cumulative effect is A LOT of swelling. Basically, this swelling puts pressure on tiny nerve receptors, interferes with muscle signaling, and results in a loss of coordination, strength, and balance. You lose the effect of future workouts because of your decisions today, but you're still on the right track from a hormonal standpoint.

With a 'health optimization' cheat day, you'll still want to reach your lactate threshold, create EPOC, and create the need for repair in days to come. However, you won't be inflamed due to the foods you eat, so the cumulative effect is that you're balancing inflammation through exercise with an optimized body ready to handle it. If you notice you're particularly sore the next day, take it easy a bit, go through your workout more slowly, but you won't have to worry about a serious increase to your risk of injury.

Plus, your body won't be prioritizing organ repair over fat loss, so you'll be more in alignment with your goals.

Regardless of your choice, as I certainly understand both perspectives, please know it's important you exercise with proper form and design your workouts for success.

If you'd like to see video demonstrations of every exercise listed above, and/or have help creating turnkey workouts -- that help eliminate excess calories and move you forward with your goals -- simply switch Create My Workout to 'overeating mode', and get started right away. If you don't have access, click below to get in Create My Workout.

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